The largest festival in the world dedicated entirely to history is back this June; offering talks, debates, living history, displays, demonstrations, walks, activities and so much more. All set in the beautiful Wiltshire countryside, and only a two-hour drive west of London. Archaeology Travel will be there, what about you?

A view across hills and fields with the white tents of the festival.
The Chalke Valley History Festival in 2018. Photography © Russell Emm

Chalke Valley History Festival is an annual event in the peaceful Wiltshire village of Broad Chalke. It started in 2011 as a fundraiser for the local cricket club, run by club member and historical author, James Holland. Over the subsequent years it has grown beyond anything he could have anticipated, as well as moving to a larger location, and is now the biggest history festival in the UK, sponsored by many large companies including national newspaper, the Daily Mail.

Combining living history, talks and debates, panels of experts, a festival for schools, it hosts some of the biggest names in contemporary historical research. Talks will be given on such diverse subjects as Anglo Saxons, the French Resistance, Greek mythology, the Silk Road, philosophy, country houses and the Vikings, with speakers that include Dan Snow, Victoria Hislop, Charles Spencer, Phil Harding from Time Team and Minette Walters.

A line of people all in different period costumes looking at the camera, in a field against a blue sky.

Living History at the festival – where World War I can meet the Saxons! Photograph © Andrew Chorley

This year sees the introduction of a new project, ‘Britain: The Thread of History 1603-2016’, as well as focusing on the 75th anniversary of D-Day which is this June, with several talks as well as the construction of a giant Hawker typhoon, built by a local engineering company with help from local schools and scout groups. A single engine fighter plane, the Hawker is synonymous with D-Day and the Normandy campaign which will dominate the landscape around the festival site.

The Living History events, which run from the Tuesday through to the end of the festival, include new themes such as Exploration, the Historic Home and Wartime Farming, offering visitors the chance to engage directly with history using techniques and material from the past. There is a huge range of events including Saxon cookery, Viking shipbuilding, history of brewing, history of navigation and mapping, and life in the Georgian army.

Two children and two adults in period costume play sword fighting in front of a tent.

There’s a lot for kids to do at the festival, where history comes alive. Photograph © Andrew Chorley

This is a must visit event for anyone with an interest in history and archaeology. Easy to find just a few miles outside Salisbury, with good public transport access and plenty of parking, there is onsite camping, high quality food stalls, cafes, a bar, fine dining, shops and exhibitions. All details are available on the Chalke Valley History Festival website.

Archaeology Travel will be attending this year’s event, so keep an eye on our social media during the week of 24th – 30th June and bookmark this article for a a full review of the festival.

Visiting Chalke Valley History Festivals

Opening hours
Monday, Tuesday and Thursday the site opens at 13h00
Wednesday the site opens at 16h00
Friday, Saturday and Sunday the site opens at 09h00

Ticket Prices
Entrance to the festival is free on Monday – Friday.
Festival Entrance tickets must be bought for Saturday and Sunday (unless you have an event ticket) – entrance tickets include access to the site, historical displays, living history, pop-up talks and Museum Row.
Event tickets are bought separately for individual events and are for the talks, the Trench Experience, Historical Walks, children’s activities, SOE training and Sword School.
There is an online programme of talks and events which includes times and prices for each.

Good to Know
Parking is free. No dogs are allowed on site as it is a working farm.

Official Website